an entrepreneur’s two sided coin

November 29 2012

Nothing — criminals, graduate school, Social Media Week, Seth Godin — prepared me for what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

There are many warm, idealistic perceptions of the life of an entrepreneur. Being your own boss, running your own show, creating things that matter, following your bliss. Anyone who has groveled at a desk job is lying if they say they haven’t dreamed of what it would be like to play by a different set of rules. Fantasies of setting your own schedule and having more dimes in your pockets seem anything but illicit.

And the success stories! It’s thrilling to hear about the one who struck it rich, the single mother whose idea took off, the underdog whose product went viral, the family man who sold his company to pursue his passion. We love them. We try to find where they drink. We scour articles and books instructing us how to live passionately and make money while doing it.

Very rarely do we hear about the shitty parts of the process.

If we do, it’s after the big win (and even then, we tend to gloss over those not-so-appealing details). The long hours, the misdirection, the insecurities, the unknown, the uncertainties, the sacrifices, the pain, the anxieties, the waffling bank account. The struggle isn’t what we want to buy. We want the finished product. The clean, packaged version. We shy away from the gritty, dirty parts, and when they happen to us, we’re not sure if we’re on track.

Moments of rolling around on the floor is exactly what is needed for ideas to manifest.

It’s those moments of doubt and despair that prompt action. And it is such moments that make us human, vulnerable, approachable, relatable. Because of these unglamorous, unspoken phases, we champion the entrepreneur. We marvel at their guts, their innovation, their creativity, and their gumption. We should consider celebrating the failures, too.

No experience mimics that initial jump into the unknown and the subsequent thrashing that occurs.

I remember the way my heart would race as I entered the county jail to conduct interviews. I’ve known long work weeks, late nights, early mornings, and the loss of self to put on a good show. I’ve felt the pressure of “that one shot,” that chance of doing something really great, and the pressure of not fucking it up. And I felt the flip side of when it did go well, the postpartum that can follow. I’ve shipped and failed then shipped something else and waited to see what happens.

It’s testing. There’s no guidebook, no rules, no one tells you what to do or what needs to happen.

Nothing will properly prepare you. You don’t need a certain degree, specific experience, or a different title. The project is yours, and it’s waiting for you to give it life. There is no known. There is only doing. And today.

You may never be ready. You might try and realize it’s not for you. But you’ll never learn if you don’t at least try. You must learn through action.

So go and test. Test, and test again.